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Seven stages in the history of british art

This wealth of art is organised in seven sections, each corresponding to a different era.:

  • Lady Thornhagh
    William Larkin.
    Jane, Lady Thornhagh, 1617.
    Private collection.

    Destruction and Reformation (1520–1620), with examples of religious sculptures damaged by Puritan iconoclasts during the Protestant Reformation, which reveal the profound break with the medieval past that England witnessed beginning in the 1530s. It also includes works by the most prominent artists from the period, such as Hans Holbein, Robert Peake, Marcus Gheeraerts and William Larkin, along with the great miniaturists Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, as well as manuscripts, John Foxe's Acts and Monuments (The Book of Martyrs), the King James Bible from 1611, popular prints and emblem books.

  • San Pablo predicando en Atenas
    James Thornhill.
    St Paul Preaching at Athens
    c 1710. © Tate 2012

    Revolution and the Baroque (1620–1720) features court culture under the Stuart dynasty with portraits by Anthony van Dyck, Peter Lely, William Dobson and Godfrey Kneller. James Thornhill's history painting and the landscapes by Jan Siberechts point to a series of events that affected British art after 1660, when a manifestly "modern" art world began to take shape. The section is completed with set designs and costumes for masques by Inigo Jones, political caricatures, masterpieces from the printing press, maps, and prints by Wenceslaus Hollar.

  • El señor y la señora Hill
    Arthur Devis.
    Mr and Mrs Hill, 1750-51.

    Society and Satire (1720–1800) Here are juxtaposed society portraits by artists such as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Thomas Lawrence with the social satire of James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson. Beginning with William Hogarth and the artists (such as Francis Hayman) connected to the recently established exhibition spaces at Vauxhall Gardens and the Foundling Hospital in London in the 1740s, we can see how the new dynamism of British art paved the way for an expanded market, which included the arrival on the scene of Antonio Canaletto and the achievements of the "Golden Age" of the House of Hanover and the Regency. Works by Louis-François Roubiliac and Joseph Nollekens provide excellent examples of rococo and neo-classical sculpture portraits that became so fashionable in the period.

  • Los segadores
    George Stubbs.
    The Haymakers, 1783.
    © National Trust Images

    Landscapes of the Mind (1760–1850) examines the notion of landscape in various senses of the word. Paintings by Richard Wilson, Thomas Gainsborough, George Stubbs, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner reflect the emergence of landscape painting and developments up to its high point at the beginning of the nineteenth century. These works are complemented by the innovative watercolours of Thomas Girtin, Samuel Palmer and others. Meanwhile, the imaginative history paintings of James Barry, Joseph Wright, Henry Fuseli, William Blake and John Martin reveal a new tendency – one that was often marked by political radicalism – toward the fanciful and fantastical. Sculptures by John Flaxman and Thomas Banks, in turn, suggest the underlying power of neo-classicism throughout this period. Books by William Gilpin and Alexander Cozens, prints by Thomas Rowlandson for the satirical series Doctor Syntax, images from John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, George Stubbs' The Anatomy of the Horse, images of industrial Britain and illustrated books by William Blake round out this section.

  • Proserpina
    Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
    Proserpine, 1878.
    Private collection.

    Realism and Reaction (1850–1900) presents works by John Frederick Lewis and David Roberts, as well as others by Pre-Raphaelites such as John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt. These pieces serve to highlight the variety and strength of British art from the 1840s through to the 1860s. The symbolist and aestheticist reaction at the end of the nineteenth century to scientific values and materialism is reflected in the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Coley Burne-Jones, J.A.M. Whistler and Frederic Leighton. This section also includes sculptures by George Frederic Watts and Alfred Gilbert, together with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley. In addition, there are examples of Victorian photography by Roger Fenton and J.M. Cameron, popular art publications, illustrated works of fiction, and the GREAT edition of Chaucer published by William Morris' Kelmscott Press.

  • Pintura, 1937
    Ben Nicholson.
    Painting, 1937, 1937.
    © Angela Verren-Taunt 2004.

    Modernity and Tradition (1900–1940). The last years of the nineteenth century witnessed the arrival of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in Britain. The generation of modern figurative artists that leapt onstage in the early twentieth century is represented in by Walter Richard Sickert, Henry Lamb, Gwen John and Spencer Gore. A more radical approach that often verges on the abstract is found in the art of Wyndham Lewis, Duncan Grant and David Bomberg. The works of Edward Wadsworth, Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash, Edward Burra and Meredith Frampton, meanwhile, serve to reveal an intimate dialogue between the most traditional styles and international modernism, including Surrealism after 1920. The pieces by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Henry Moore tell a similar tale in the form of sculptures in wood and stone. The section is completed with examples of design from the Omega Workshops, copies of the journals Blast, The Tyro and Circle, the political satire of James Boswell, Paul Nash's photography and other fascinating documents.

  • Nick Wilder
    David Hockney.
    Portrait of Nick Wilder, 1966.
    Private collection

    A Brave New World (1945–1980), an ironically Huxleyan title, describes the major expansion of British art after the Second World War. Works by Lucian Freud, R.B. Kitaj and Frank Auerbach represent the famous artists of the so-called School of London. Sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Reg Butler, Eduardo Paolozzi and Anthony Caro reflect a revitalisation of the medium in Britain that earned it international recognition. The Surrealist landscapes of Graham Sutherland; L.S. Lowry's industrial ones; Peter Coker's realism; Pop Art by Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton and David Hockney; abstract works by Peter Lanyon, Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin; Gerald Scarfe's imagery; Tony Cragg's assemblages; and the conceptual art of Keith Arnatt, Richard Long and Ian Hamilton Finlay provide the final resounding chords in the exhibition, which stand in open (and enriching) contrast to the art from earlier centuries.